Chances are, if you actually show up to vote on Election Day, you’ll run into a baby boomer at your polling place. Not just voting, but helping you vote. That’s where Mel Miskimen will be, and if you think the job’s easy, you haven’t been in Mel’s shoes.
Democracy is messy. Very messy. I know. I have to clean up after it.
I’m a poll worker. At 53 years old, they call me “the kid.” This upcoming election, if it is everything they say it’s going to be, what with the HUUUUGE turnout, it will make the 16 hours that I have to sit on a metal folding chair just fly by.
My job? To register new voters -– a job that I’ve been doing for the last six or eight low turnout elections, where the most heated races were for Comptroller and Clerk of Courts. But this one? I’m scared. Really, really scared. I’ve heard rumors of undercover official observers, armies of lawyers, election officials all looking over my shoulders to see that I dot the i’s and cross the t’s. Or, at the very least can tell the difference between the two.
To vote in Wisconsin (the place I call home), you can register on the day of the election. You only need to prove that you live in the district. Simple enough.
In a perfect world, a new voter (or as we like to call them, electors) would have the proper paper work–– a valid driver’s license and a social security number. I don’t need the whole number, just the last four digits. I just want to help you with your right to vote, I’m not looking to buy myself a plasma TV.
Or … if not a driver’s license, then some other kind of official state I.D. No? Maybe you work for the City or County? No? Not working at the public trough? Well, any other kind of work-related I.D. will do as long as it’s official. Driver’s License expired? Revoked? Suspended? No problem. Just don’t try to vote on the strength of your Blockbuster card. As long as you’ve got a social security or a DOT ID number, we’re in business.
Okay, let’s say you’ve got nothing. Let’s say … you don’t drive. You have no job. Okay, no problem. You still have to prove that you are at the right polling place, meaning, you have to have proof of residency … a bank statement, a paycheck stub, a lease, a real estate tax bill, a utility bill, cable TV, gas, electric. I’m not sure about cell phone bills, though. Like Sarah Palin, I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
No home? No problem. Homeless people can still vote. As long as the shelter, the underpass, the park bench is in the district (and you have a letter from an agency or some other organization, on their letterhead, which is signed by someone who corroborates your claim).
Speaking of corroborating witnesses … let’s say you show up at the polling place to vote. And you still need to register. You have no wallet, you left it in your car, which was broken into three days ago, but, you’ve got a brother-in-law who is willing to vouch for you.
As long as said brother-in-law fills out the back of the voter registration card with all the correct information — his name, address, proof of residence — then we issue you A PROVISIONAL BALLOT. Your vote won’t be officially counted until you show up and provide your documents. In that case, you’ve got 24 hours to get your act together.
Oh, yeah, and you have to be 18. ON THE DAY OF THE ELECTION. Sorry. Don’t blame me if your 18th birthday is November 5th. Talk to your mother.
And of course, you have to be a US citizen. Proof not required. You don’t have to swear or anything like that. Being an illegal alien disqualifies you from casting a ballot, but having been abducted by aliens does not.
All we want to do is make sure every voter who is eligible to vote, can and does. But only once. Did you know, we have a thing called curbside voting? Curbside voting is the “practice of delivering a ballot to an individual’s vehicle for voting purposes.” Now, this is not a drive up window kind of thing.
Maybe with all the alleged “officials,” we won’t have an incident like we did during the presidential primary. A guy came in to vote, very drunk, and made a scene; he was all upset, didn’t know if he was in the right place, and after we got him to tell us where he lived (a garage) and verified that yes, he was at the right polling place and he registered, he then voted, and then staggered to one of the seats in the gymatorium and passed out. We had to call the police and it turned out that, according to one of the officers, the guy “wasn’t a very nice man.” But he did vote, didn’t he?!
Which brings me to The Naughty List -– a listing of all the people who are still on some kind of legal probation and therefore can’t vote. It’s the first thing I grab and page through, to see if I know anyone. And I always do. The guy across the alley from me? Naughty list. The woman who lives in the middle of my block, with the miniature Doberman? Her too. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.
I just hope that on November 4th, I get everything right. The fate of our democracy is on my shoulders. No wonder I have such bad posture.
Mel is a regular contributor to Milwaukee Public Radio, WUWM.
Category: Boomer Lifestyle